Writers often talk about writing a book of the heart, a phrase which refers to writing a book that may not be marketable, but one that the author feels compelled to write anyway. Some authors refer to this as a book that haunts you, a story they absolutely must tell.
I’ve come to think of the third book in my Shipwreck Adventures series, KNIGHT’S CROSS, as a book of the heart, but not because it emerged from somewhere deep in my soul or psyche. I use the phrase to describe this book that grew out of my experiences of meeting and falling in love with the man who is now my husband.
My books are international adventure thrillers, and I have sailed the Caribbean, traveled in Thailand, and backpacked through the Philippines to do research for the novels in this series. I enjoy living a life of adventure. Two years ago, I lived alone on my sailboat while cruising the east coast of the United States and out to the Bahamas.
One night I was hard at work on the edits of Dragon’s Triangle when I remembered I had to write a scheduled blog post. I wanted to finish the edits, so I decided instead to make a quick, funny video of my dog using an iPad app called My Talking Pet. I animated Barney’s mouth and had him complain about his dang owner who was always sitting in front of her computer screen. It was done in ten minutes, and I went back to work.
The next morning I had a comment from Wayne, a solo sailor in Fiji who also sailed with a dog. He asked what kind of software I had used to make the video. I replied, but the surprising thing was that he wrote back and thanked me. That was quite interesting as many people never write back with thanks, so I hit reply and wrote back.
Soon the emails were flying and then the Skype calls started. One month later he invited me to sail with him from Fiji to the Marshall Islands. Three days later I flew halfway around the world to sail 1800 miles across the Pacific Ocean with this man I’d never actually met in person.
We sailed into Majuro atoll three weeks later, and Wayne had already volunteered to be my baggage handler for the research trip to Malta on the trail of the Knights of St. John.
I go on my research trips with only a small germ of an idea for a novel, and then I let what happens on the trip drive the story. For example, I became fascinated with the Order or the Knights of Malta, a sovereign state without territory that can issue passports and postage stamps and whose representatives are offered diplomatic immunity.
On the night train to Rome, we shared a sleeping car with a lovely lady who serendipitously turned out to be a Vatican Librarian and art historian. She gave me all sorts of inside information about the upcoming dual canonization ceremony soon to be held in St. Peters Square and stories about the Order. That drove my plot in a new direction. As did the week we spent on a friend’s sailboat off the south coast of Turkey when we visited an old Crusaders’ Castle and poked around in the Lycian cliffside tombs.
However, it was the afternoon in Marsaxlokk, Malta, sitting in a field of flowers where Wayne and I shared a picnic lunch of bread, cheese, and wine that the new book became my book of the heart. That afternoon, Wayne proposed and I said yes! One month later when I sat down at a blank screen, I knew Riley and Cole would be engaged, too.
Another oft-repeated phrase is about how life often imitates art. I’m not so sure I’d call my thrillers art, but I know for certain that in my book of the heart, art imitates life.
Christine Kling is a sailor, writer, nomad. Her new Shipwreck Adventure thrillers, Circle of Bones, Dragon’s Triangle, and Knight’s Cross feature the adventures of a female sailor and a maritime archeologist. Christine lives aboard a 52-foot motorsailor with her family including Barney, the Yorkshire Terror and Ruby, the Wonder Dog.
To learn more about Christine, please visit her website.
Interested in becoming a member of the International Thriller Writers? ITW offers Active and Associate memberships.